PG Tyrese Hunter Emerges As Florida’s Top 2021 Target

Looking at Florida’s 2021 recruiting board it’s clear they are targeting a point guard and feel it is a key position of need. It’s likely the team doesn’t see Tre Mann as a player that’s going to stick around Gainesville until he’s an upperclassman, and projected 2020 starter Tyree Appleby will be a 5th-year senior in 2021 meaning they’ll want some more depth moving forward. While Ques Glover has some believers in the fan base, it doesn’t appear the staff is about to hitch their wagon to the former unranked recruit. With all these factors in play, nabbing a point guard in 2021 is a priority.

On Sunday the Gators saw one of their top point guard targets Rahsool Diggins choose UConn, something that was largely expected for the Philadelphia native. The Gators were considered in the mix but weren’t favored. He, by the recruiting rankings, was the highest rated point guard the Gators were pursuing at 53rd in the class, though I’m not sure he was necessarily Florida’s top target.

Tyrese Hunter, the 80th ranked player in 2021, appears to be who the Gators are pursuing most diligently. From Wisconsin, an area Florida isn’t known for recruiting particularly hard, Hunter is one of the most athletic players in the class who has gained interest from all over the country. A few weeks ago he announced a list of his top 10 schools consisting of Marquette, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Arizona State, Miami, UConn, Texas Tech, Georgia, Virginia Tech, and Florida.

Notably absent from the list is Wisconsin, someone who you think would be after one of the top players in their state. I asked a recruiting analyst who covers the state of Wisconsin and he said the joke is that he’s too athletic for the Badgers–a team known for their measured and methodical way of playing basketball.

At 6’1” and 160 pounds, Hunter has incredible bounce. Whether it’s in transition at a full sprint or in the halfcourt where he can elevate to finish to grab an alley-oop with two hands and finish, his explosiveness is truly eye popping. Check out his junior season highlights here.

Truthfully, it’s hard not to see some resemblances between him and a past athletic freak point guard the Gators had in Kasey Hill. Hill was a player who had a great relationship with Coach White as his defensive effort really earned the trust of his head coach. Hunter in the same way knows how to use his athleticism on the defensive end. You’ll see him always showing max effort on defense–getting into a stance and never taking a break during a defensive possession. When guarding the ball he’ll apply intense pressure and if someone tries to set a screen on him he’ll go at it with force, bouncing off the screener and making them think twice about whether they want to set another pick on him. In his highlights you’ll also see a lot of ridiculous blocks where he gets way above the rim, something you don’t see from a lot of 6’1” guards.

Perhaps the best part of watching Hunter play defense is the fact that he seems to show genuine pride on that side of the floor. For so many young players looking to rise up recruiting rankings these days it’s the offensive side of the ball where they want to expend their energy but for Hunter his quest for attention starts by dominating the defensive side of the ball.

This has Florida’s coaching staff extremely interested. The Gators just had a down year defensively after stringing together multiple seasons of top-25 level defense and it’s clear the staff wants to re-establish the culture of defensive excellence.

Andrew Nembhard never really fit what Coach White wants defensively from his point guards. White preaches ball pressure and physicality from his lead guards, but Nembhard simply didn’t have the speed and athleticism to deliver that. With the type of point guards the staff is now recruiting it’s clear they are prioritizing speed and defensive ability, boxes that get a huge check mark when evaluating Hunter.

While his defense (deservingly) gets most of the attention Hunter also can get buckets, particularly on drives where his speed allows him to get past his man and his athleticism gets him to hang in the air before finishing. Hunter lives going downhill on offense and any time he can get up to full speed with the ball in his hands the defense is in trouble. Right now his jump shot is a bit of a question mark but his mechanics do look good. His stroke is compact and repeatable, but right now the shots just don’t fall for him at a huge clip. The fact his stroke looks mechanically solid should suggest he will improve as a shooter but right now it’s not a strength. The fact that he isn’t a knockdown shooter is also a big reason why he’s not rated higher in recruiting rankings despite his elite athleticism.

Tyrese Hunter embodies a lot of the traits Coach White looks for in a point guard and for that reason he appears to be their top target on the board right now after already landing stud wing Kowacie Reeves Jr. For that reason this is definitely a recruitment to keep an eye on.

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.